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November 5, 2013

Canada lost Prof. Michael Mandel (1948-2013)

The Canadian Charger

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In accordance with Jewish tradition, Michael Mandel was buried on October 28, shortly after his untimely death from a rare heart condition. He leaves a wife, Karen Golden, and five children.

Mandel graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School and also attended Oxford, where he earned a BCL (Bachelor of Civil Law) degree.  He returned to Osgoode Hall as a professor, serving from 1974 till his death.

His teaching career also took him to the University of Saskatchewan and McMaster in Canada.  He also taught and lectured at least six Italian universities and at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.  At Osgoode Hall, his teaching focused on criminal law, international criminal law, the law of war, and legal politics.

Activism played a part in these interests. 

He filed a complaint with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, charging 67 NATO leaders with war crimes. 

He also called on the Canadian government to ban George W. Bush from Canada because of his invasion of Iraq, pointing to its illegality under international law.

He was a staunch opponent of the Afghan war, for the same reason.

Mandel was a firm supporter of the Palestinian cause.  In a paper published by the Social Science Research Network, he examined the Israel/Palestine situation in the light of international law.  The piece looked at what the borders should be, what the status of the territories should be, and whether the Palestinian refugees have a right of return. 

He concluded that the presence of Israeli forces in the territories conquered in 1967 constitutes an illegal aggression and that the correct border between Israel and Palestine is that of the 1949 armistice line with Jordan.  While he concluded that there is no Palestinian right of return, he found that they have a right to compensation.  However, with the 1949 borders there would not appear to be a need to appeal to a right of return.

Mandel was a critic of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  He saw several shortcomings.  Mandel felt that politicians more than judges are attuned to the popular will.  That point, however, raises two issues.  First, if we are governed just by the popular will we make democracy the kind of mob rule that Aristotle feared.  Second, wary legislators at times avoid taking controversial stands because of fear that these would not be popular with the electorate, and hence they leave these matters up to the courts.

As well, he argued that judicial decisions are written in a fashion that is to arcane for the general public.  He also saw the Charter as too “American,” serving corporate and individual rights rather than group and social rights.  He held that the Charter should include health care and education as rights.

Among his many published works are The Charter of Rights and the Legalization of Politics in Canada and How America Gets Away with Murder.

Aside from his legal and academic work and his political activism, Mandel was also an accomplished singer, having studied opera in Italy.  As well, he was an avid student of, and advocate for Yiddish.  He had a strong secular Jewish orientation.

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